How to Write AP Biology Essays by Mp019cte

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									              How to Write AP Biology Essays
                      (Preparing for the Free Response Section of the AP Bio Exam)
                                  Mrs. Perry – Mill Creek High School

        The free-response portion of the exam consists of 4 essays that you will answer in 90 minutes. That means that
you will have approximately 22.5 minutes to answer each question. The four questions will be taken
from the 3 major sections as follows:

        Molecules and Cells –                       25% of course -- 1 question
        Genetics and Evolution –                    25% of course -- 1 question
        Organisms and Populations –                 50% of course -- 2 questions

        Many students panic when they think about the free response questions because the idea of writing a well-
developed, content-filled essay in approximately 22 minutes is overwhelming. But keep in mind – YOU ARE NOT
PENALIZED FOR YOUR ANSWERS IN THIS SECTION UNLESS YOU CONTRADICT
YOURSELF, and the total number of points (up to 10 points per essay) that you earn is
multiplied by 1.5!!! That means that you have a great deal of freedom with this section of the exam.

The two most important suggestions for performing well in this section are:

        1) Be aware of the major challenges that most students face.
        2) Practice the format within the time frame allowed for the essays.

Challenges:
                 1. Take your own watch with you, and use a pen to write with -- dark blue or black
                    ballpoint ink. You need to be able to pace yourself, and ink is easier to read. If you
                    make a mistake, you will cross out your mistake and go on – readers are concerned with
                    KNOWLEDGE, not neatness!
                 2. Read each question carefully, specifically noting the directional words – describe,
                    explain, compare, contrast, design, etc. You will answer according to what was
                    specifically asked – not your own interpretation of what was asked.
                 3. Begin with the question that you feel the most comfortable with – as long as you
                    number the question in the box on your answer sheet, it does not matter which one that
                    you start with!!!
                 4. Brainstorm the question. Jot down as many key terms and concepts as you can. We
                    will always begin each topic in this course with a key term and concept list – you should
                    make sure that you KNOW the definitions and applications for these terms.
                 5. Dive right into the answer – the scorers are looking for content, not a perfectly
                    designed intro, a body, and a conclusion. Do not waste time restating the question or
                    developing a dazzling intro. Do, however, follow the order that was given in the
                    question, and if you have choices to write about, it is nice to tell which ones you will be
                    discussing and why they seem to be related. Again, themes are the focus of the course.
                    YOU MUST ADDRESS ALL BULLETED PARTS OF THE QUESTIONS GIVEN
                    – THE 10 POINTS ARE ASSIGNED ACCORDING TO EACH SECTION
                    REQUIRED, SO YOU CANNOT EARN A GOOD SCORE ON AN ESSAY IF YOU
                    SKIP PARTS – TRY TO ANSWER EVERYTHING TO THE BEST OF YOUR
                    ABILITY AND DON’T JUST FOCUS ON ONE PIECE…
                  6. Briefly outline your essay. This ensures that your essay will be reader-friendly and will
                      prevent you from wasting time writing yourself into a corner. Include as many of the
                      key terms and concepts as you can, but be sure that you develop your ideas in each essay
                      when you begin to write – explain the significance of terms, do not just define them…
                      and do not repeat the same information over and over. There is no need to reiterate
                      what you have already explained.
                           *Make sure that you are doing what is asked – if you are directed to choose three
                           items from a list and discuss them, only choose three topics that you are comfortable
                           with. The readers will only look at the first items that address what was asked of
                           you….no matter how good the rest of your answer was!
                  7. Answer each question on a separate page and make it legible. You have the entire
                      answer book, so don’t try to conserve paper…just make sure it is easy to read.
                  8. If the question is broken into parts, leave several lines between the answers to
                      insert more information later as it comes to you. Also, do not mark out large
                      sections of essay if you make a false start on an answer. If you decide at some point that
                      you may have misread the question, simply state that fact and begin again. You may
                      have earned some points in your first answer for which you should earn credit. Credit
                      will not be awarded for marked-out material.
                  9. Define all terms, cite examples of major concepts, and label all diagrams.
                      Elaborate, elaborate, and elaborate!!! You are demonstrating understanding, not just
                      spitting back memorized vocabulary….
                  10. Attempt to answer EVERY question on the test, but PACE YOURSELF –
                      remember, a maximum of 10 points will be awarded for each question attempted, so you
                      need to try and put something on paper for every question asked. Also, break the time
                      into four, 20-minute periods. Stop writing on that question when the time is up. You
                      can always come back to a question if you finish early.


Practice format:
          We will practice the approach with every unit that we cover from this point on. You will build on your ability
to do this, and your comfort zone with both the content and the time frame will develop over the course of the year.
A list of potential Free Response Essay questions will be posted at the end of each unit for you to review and look back
over.


Time frame for writing essays:
         1. Read carefully; start with one most comfortable with.                                           -- 1 min
         2. Brainstorm and generate hot word/hot concept list.                                              -- 1 min
         3. Outline what CAN write about from hot word/hot concept list.                                    -- 3 min
         4. Jump in and write – develop ideas.                                                              -- 15 min
                *Answer each part with detail, skip lines between ideas.
         5. Proofread essay                                                                                 -- 2.5 min


Final note:
One of the essays on the AP exam in May will be experimentally based. Thus, you need to know how to design an
experiment. Best rule of thumb is to keep it simple – when you set up an experiment, test only ONE variable at a time,
and always have a control. Also, most of these questions require that you present an appropriately labeled diagram or
graph, so be sure to review the following terms:
                   Title (every graph should have a descriptive one), x axis, y axis, line of best fit, trends

Little hint:      DRY -- dependent/responding variable on y-axis
                  MIX – manipulated/independent variable on x-axis

								
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